In order to augment the capability against COVID-19, Indian Railways has converted 5231 non air-conditioned coaches into isolation coaches, at the level of COVID Care Center (CCC) as per the ‘Guidance Documentation Appropriate Management of Suspect/Confirmed cases of COVID-19’ circulated by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
These facilities are part of the integrated COVID plan developed by MoHFW and NITI Ayog and are normally to be used when state facilities are overwhelmed.
It was also stipulated that the Facility should be well ventilated with adequate scope for natural lighting, and Air Conditioning if provided, should be non-ducted which rules out AC Coaches.
It was advised that these coaches would be used only when the state facilities would get overwhelmed and it was expected that these coaches could be required for use by Mid July, by which time the virus was expected to peak.
The issue of AC vs NAC coaches was discussed with NiTi Ayog and Ministry of Health and Family welfare before converting these coaches for Covid Patients. It was agreed that AC coaches would not be suitable in view of the potential transmission risk of COVID 19 virus through AC ducting, and generally a higher ambient temperature was expected to assist in fighting the Virus and cross circulation of air through open windows will benefit patients.
As directed and desired by the Empowered Group II, these isolation coaches, serving as “COVID Care Centers”, shall offer care only for cases that have been clinically assigned as mild or very mild cases or COVID suspect cases. Each such isolation train/CCC must necessarily be mapped to one or more Dedicated COVID Health Centres and at least one Dedicated COVID Hospital for referral purpose where the patients can be shifted to in case their condition starts to deteriorate.
As per the COVID train procedure prepared by MoHFW, one emergency resuscitation facility shall be set up on the platform adjacent to platform where the train is parked, by the associated health unit. One changing facility for doffing at end of the train on platform where the train is parked is required to be provided. This facility, if not available as a permanent set up, may be provided as a temporary arrangement.
The Non AC coaches would be a little warm in Mid June if the windows are kept closed, and the ambient temperature may also be around 43 °C. But, once mosquito nets are installed and the windows kept open, the cross circulation of air is expected to improve the temperature. It may be noted that even this kind of temperature is expected to be temporary phenomenon as the arrival of monsoon and rains would bring relief.
In order to beat the heat build-up inside the coaches due to summer temperatures, a multi-pronged strategy is being adopted, which will provide comfort to the patients and staff.
The following steps are being tried out: –
1. Cover sheets (White Canat) or Suitable Material are being placed over the isolation coaches stationed at platforms. It is expected that this would provide insulation from outside heat.
2. Bubble wrap films are being applied on the coaches, which are expected to reduce temperatures inside coaches by 1°C.
3. Heat Reflective Paint on Roof: A trial was conducted by Northern Railway by painting the roof of isolation coaches with heat reflective paint. During trial, it was found that temperature inside the coaches can be reduced up to 2.2°C.
4. Trials are also being planned for another coating developed in association with IIT, Mumbai. The trials are expected to be done today (20th June 2020) and the results would be recorded.
5. A trial has been done by placing portable coolers inside the coaches. A temperature reduction of upto 3°C was achieved using these coolers.
6. Water mist systems are also being tried out. In the current season of dry air, it is expected that the resulting temperature reduction would enhance the comfort of expected patients.
It may be noted that Railways is making these Coaches available as a service provider to State Governments as per the Guidelines issued by MOHFW. These coaches were to be utilized by States as a contingency measure only when all other means to isolate the Covid patients have been exhausted. More than 5000 coaches are ready for any such contingency.